The first murder in this movie is brutal and disturbing. It's a great opener that sucks the viewer in, and the juxtaposition of sadomasochistic gay sex with the brutal stabbing death of a man weeping and begging for his life was shocking and intriguing for viewers who were curious about sadomasochism, gay sex, and gory deaths. It's no wonder this movie gained notoriety upon its first release, especially with its lurid ad campaign promising a peek at the sordid side of the "homosexual lifestyle." Even today lots of people wonder from time to time what exactly two men DO when they're having sex (though most people would never admit this out loud) and this curiosity must have been even stronger in 1980 when this movie premiered, years before movies and books and the Showtime network gave people a rough idea of what gay sex might look like.
I'm not being pedantic or irrelevant, I swear. Grindhouse films were popular because they promised to give viewers a glimpse at something they'd never seen before, graphic sex and violence and a seediness that other movies couldn't provide. That's the driving force behind the popularity of these films. "Cruising" was a movie preceded by a seedy ad campaign that basically said "step right up and see something you've always wondered about but were too afraid to ask," and like every grindhouse ad campaign it did two things. First, it put asses in seats. Second, it lied through its teeth and promised things the movie could never deliver.
Maybe it's just because I'm speaking from the perspective of someone
who's had all those books and movies and Showtime programs to give me a
glimpse at gay sex, but the sex scenes in this movie were nothing close
to graphic. I'd say that only someone who would succumb to the knee jerk
reaction "oh my God, eeew, gay, that's WAY too graphic" at mild
suggested sex between two men would find these scenes disturbing, but
the fact is that most of the people who hate this movie and call it
graphic and disturbing are gay and thus arguably experienced when it
comes to gay sex. Maybe they're disturbed by the violence (after all, a
lot of gays criticized "Cruising" because it showed gays being killed in
graphic ways, but that concerns me less since it's supposed to be a
function of the plot) but even if you're disturbed when it seems like
someone is killing gay people, the violence (apart from the first
murder) really shouldn't bother anyone since it's so tame. I mean, maybe
this movie would be disturbing if you've never seen a horror movie
before, but for me, it was annoying and boring. Not to mention that not
only are the gay sex scenes nowhere near as graphic as promised, even
the STRAIGHT sex scenes are shadowy and unerotic. Why one could almost
suggest that whoever made this movie didn't know what the hell he was
Second, as I said, the movie is nowhere near as graphic and nasty as it's said to be, but whereas other grindhouse ad campaigns are amusing and endearing in their hyperbole, the ad campaign for "Cruising" was just insulting, and people who saw the movie AGREED that it was graphic even AFTER seeing the movie, and I just don't see what they see. How is this graphic? The sex scenes are tamer than the kind of sex we can see on cable TV these days, which again might be my generation gap rearing its ugly head, but it let me down, man, but I think I have a valid point in here somewhere. Women in Prison flicks like "Bare Behind Bars" (which came out BEFORE "Cruising") feature sex that goes all the way, sex that's actually graphic and nasty. They promise it and they deliver. Compare that with the sex in "Cruising" and you'll notice that it's not even close. "Cruising" cares more about preaching at us about how people don't tolerate homosexuals than it does about showing us the sordid sex that squicks people out and makes them intolerant, and the preaching isn't even well done, it's boring.
Taken in the context of how bad the acting and plot and story are, it'd be unintentionally funny if I weren't so annoyed at having this movie lumped in with grindhouse flicks when it's nowhere near as enjoyable. I like the seedy nasty graphic grindhouse flicks, and I don't look down my nose at "Cruising" because it's one of them, I look down on it because it's boring and inept and it shows that Friedkin thought he was sending an "important message" with the movie while the studio knew that the movie was utter shit so they tacked on an ad campaign targeted at grindhouse fans because they seemed to think that we're idiots and we won't know when we've been had. Grindhouse fans like bad movies, right? And one bad movie is the same as the next, right? No, it's not. A bad movie that's bad because it's over-the-top and stupid and nasty is fun, a bad movie that's bad because it's ineptly made by people who should know better, a bad movie that's tedious and boring is just that, inept and tedious and boring, and that's why "Cruising" sucks so badly. Don't believe the hype.
My hand slipped while I was typing this review and I almost titled this section "Dumming Up" until I noticed them mistake and changed it. Thinking it over though, I think "Dumming Up" is a pretty accurate summation for this particular movie. It's dumb. It's bad, and it's not so bad it's good, it's so bad it's bad, and it doesn't even approach the seedy fun of the grindhouse flicks you know and love. Skip this piece of crap.
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